Yule Blog Challenge – Day 6

A Tried and True Strategy

                                          Numbered Heads –  Spencer Kagan                                                                                                   (AkA:  Prep your Rep)

I’ve used this strategy as both a classroom teacher and a math coach.  All you need is a deck of cards and a dry erase marker

Teacher Prep

  1. Students are in groups
  2. Each group is given a number
  3. Each student in the group is assigned a number.
    1. I’ll write the numbers in the corner of their desk with the dry erase marker.
  4. Create two piles of cards.
    1. Pile 1:  Group numbers. 
      1. If you have 9 groups, then you should have cards Ace – 9
    2. Pile 2:  Individual numbers 
      1. If you have 3 students in a group, this pile should have cards A – 3

Explaining the Process

This past year, our coaching team added a new member, Karon.  She referred to this strategy as “Prep your Rep”.  I love this phrase and the message it sends. To me, the act of prepping your rep bonds the group members – All for one and one for all.

  When I use this strategy in a class for the first time, I do the following:

  1. To avoid confusion, I call out each group number and the group members raise their hands. 
  2. I then call out each individual number and ask each student assigned that number to raise their hands.
  3. Me:  Your group will be given a task/question to work on.  It is the group’s responsibility to make sure each member can add to the whole group conversation.  
  4. Me:  I’ll be using the numbers to randomly call on people. (I then pick a card from each pile). I pulled a 5 from the group pile and a 2 from the individual pile.  Who is group 5 seat 2?  (student raises hand).  Leilani, you’ll represent your group and therefore start the whole discussion

During Group Time….

  1. As groups are working, I circulate around the room listening to conversations and asking questions.
  2. I tend to ask a quieter member to share the groups conversation with me.  The group’s extrovert often starts talking, but I’ll stop him/her.  It’s crucial to get all students practicing mathematical language in their small group environment. 
  3. If a student is unable to answer my questions, I’ll remind the group of their task – to prepare all members for the whole group discussion.  Me:  “Prep your rep.  I’ll be back in a minute to check in on your progress.”
  4. If you say, you’ll check back with a group, you must check back with the group.
    1. It keeps the group accountable.
    2. It provides an opportunity to give feedback on the groups collaboration skills.
  5. Prior to the whole group discussion, I’ll give a reminder.  Me:  You have 30 second to wrap up.  Make sure your rep is prepped.

Whole Group Discussion

  1. I randomly pick the group and student to kick off the discussion.
  2. Phrases I use: Please,
    1. Share what your group talked about
    2. Share a strategy your group used
  3. From there, I use a variety of strategies depending on the feel of the class.
    1. I ask the other group members follow up questions 
    2. I randomly pick again to hear from another group
  4. If the randomly picked student is unable to start the discussion, then I’ll give the group a chance to reconvene and prep their rep.  During this time, I’ll move on with the discussion but will check back with the group.  
  5. It’s crucial to return.  Why?
    1. Accountability.  Math class is not a passive experience. Students must engage in order to learn.
    2. Growth mindset – Typically the group pulls together to support their representative – an action that should be highlighted and encouraged.  All for one and one for all.
    3. An initial negative situation turns positive and students feel good about stepping up to the challenge.

Group Tasks

  1. Students need to learn how to work together, therefore I vary the length of tasks.
  2. I often give groups 1, 2 or 3 minutes to discuss a topic prior to randomly calling on a student to start the conversation.
  3. These shorter tasks …
    1. develop collaboration skills
    2. strengthen group discussion stamina
    3. break up the lesson and allow for processing time
    4. allow students to practice academic language
  4. With longer tasks, I’ll incorporate a whole group check in discussion.
    1. Keeps students moving forward on the assignment
    2. Establishes a time to clear up any misconceptions 
    3. Allows for students to practice academic language and process verbally the topic in question



About jgvadnais

Instructional Technology Coach. Desmos Fellow. Google Level 1 Certified. SoCal transplant. New Englander at heart. Lover of yoga, dogs, green smoothies and coffee creamer
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Yule Blog Challenge – Day 6

  1. Pingback: Collaborative Group Roles – How I Became a Fan | Communicating Mathematically

  2. Pingback: The Zeroth Power: Desmos & VNPS | Communicating Mathematically

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s